June 26, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Martin’s,

As some of you know, Laura and I have been traveling. It has given me an opportunity to do a bit of writing, some editing of my forthcoming books, and perhaps most importantly, to connect with our children, grandchildren and other family members whom we have not seen in many months. We will return to Houston very soon. 

Despite being on the road, I have been in nearly daily contact with the Vice Rector, Vicar, and other Executive Committee members of our staff. In addition, I have been in conversations about our re-opening process at St. Martin’s with our Bishops, and with my friends, Barkley Thompson, the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral and Reagan Cocke, the Interim Rector of St. John the Divine. We have been working together to pattern our re-opening process in accord with one another, and with the clear and readily available counsel and advice of our Bishops.

Toward that end, I need to share with you that last night, I consulted with the above, and our Wardens and members of the Executive Committee of the Vestry. As hard as it is to come to terms with it, given the exponential spike in COVID-19 cases and the extraordinary strain it is putting on the Harris County medical system, we have decided to return to virtual worship on Sundays and to continue with only live streamed Wednesday services until further notice. This closure includes our Thursday Day of Prayer. St. Martin’s campus will remain closed for all events.

We will not hold in-person services this Sunday, but we will live stream our service at 10 a.m. from The Church on our Facebook and YouTube Channels. We will also live stream our Family Table Worship Service at 8 a.m. on Sunday. 

I should stress again, this decision was made at the direction of our Bishops, and in accord with our Cathedral and St. John the Divine.

Here is a link that provides the data that helped us in this important decision.
 
My friends, I have had a great deal of conversation with many of you. I know how eager we are to return to some sense of normalcy in our day-to-day lives and in our life together as a worshipping community. If you are not eager for that moment, I confess that I am! Despite our human tendency to control our circumstances and manage our own lives, there are times when things are beyond our control.

So I gently remind you that the words of Holy Scripture point us repeatedly to turn everything over to our Lord, and everything means everything. For now, I bid you to hold fast to the knowledge that indeed, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” Psalm 24:1 

In a few weeks, we will hear the words of Psalm 139, verses 4-7 in our Sunday readings:

You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go then from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

This beautiful text reminds us there is nowhere, no experience, no situation that is beyond the intervention and presence of Our Lord. 

THE NEXT 30 DAYS
Knowing our human capacity to want to “do” something, let me invite you to join me in a little spiritual discipline for the next 30 days.

First, spend some time during the day in silence. Perhaps about five minutes or more, with your eyes closed – breathing deeply and meditating on the truth of God’s presence while accepting the promise of Psalm 139. This will help ban the nagging voices of angst and worry. I promise.

Second, read one chapter of Holy Scripture each day focusing on The Gospel of John, and The Epistles of John, (I John, II John, III John). These 28 chapters are rich with gentle and wonderful reminders of some of these treasures of which I speak.

Third, and I mean this quite literally, avoid the 24-hour broadcast news cycles. I tune in from time to time, but prefer print options that are a bit more comprehensive and free from the verbal nuances that are more opinion than fact. I suspect that if you try a “30-day fast” from cable news networks, you will find your days lighter and your soul more buoyant! 

Fourth and most importantly, pray, fervently and regularly. Prayer is the language of our soul; it connects us to God and it allows Him to enter more fully into our lives. We all need that now–we really do. So pray, and as you do, please remember:

  • Our medical professionals in Houston. Pray for their energy, for their wisdom and for their protection.
  • Those now suffering with COVID-19. Pray for their speedy and full recovery.
  • Those, not just in our city, but in our state, nation and world who have bid loved ones farewell because of this virus, a number soon to reach one-half million of our world’s population.
  • And pray for a vaccine, this will surely bring a tectonic plate change for the better. 

If you need a little guidance here, perhaps use this:

“Almighty God, You hold all things in Your mighty hands; we pray for Your intervention to bring a swift end to the Corona-Virus Pandemic. Endue those working to find a vaccine with clarity of mind and unwavering determination to quickly discover a vaccine; and then be with those entrusted in its distribution that it may be quickly and widely available, thus saving your children from further infection, illness and death. We offer you this prayer, in the name of Your Son, the greatest of all healers, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.”

I hope these suggestions will be a steady guide for you as we continue to make our way in this strange new season of life together. In fact, as those 30 days end, I would love to know what you learned and what you experienced. Drop me a note. I still very much enjoy reading my mail! (717 Sage Road, 77056)

So my brothers and sisters, I offer you these words this Friday afternoon, and with them comes my prayers and the prayers of all of your clergy team. Let us hold fast to our Lord, and know and believe that He is holding fast to us. He is. He really is.

Faithfully,
The Rev. Dr. Russell J. Levenson, Jr.
Rector